What does equality mean in our school today? What does it mean to be unequivocally inclusive? For opportunities, aspirations and lives full of hope for the future to be available, equally, for all? Is it the quest for integrating underrepresented individuals by offering them a platform to be seen? If so, how can we go wrong? Is it merely offering a voice to their truth, providing a front-row seat to marginalised issues in minority communities, such as Black or gay? 

Centuries of exploitation of gay history compound our societal failures. At a time when we recognise the need for change, many studies suggest the pandemic has led to a steep increase in discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community – who are facing significantly high levels of bias. The normalisation of “legal silence” has led to fatal consequences, which speaks volumes for our governments. Take, for example, the proportion of LGBTQ+ members that are victimised: research suggests some 2.8 billion people are living in countries where identifying as gay could lead to imprisonment, corporal punishment, or even death. In stark contrast, only 780 million people are living in countries where same-sex marriage or civil unions are a legal right. What follows leaves these marginalised communities at risk, fuelling alienation amidst the social divide.

There have been cultural howlers and horrific cases, each of them representing a calamity for LGBTQ+ people. However, as a counter-balance are those who comprehend the historical narratives as a principle of change. They question whether Western culture has criminalised history against specific groups. To paint a more positive picture – and detoxify a disruptive, shameful legacy – we may look to European civilisation: a recent Stonewall study argues the spread of attitudes from the British resulted in much of Africa, for example, losing its previous cultural attitude towards sexual orientation and gender identity, when forced to adopt new values from British colonists in the 19th and 20th centuries. Could this be why scepticism towards the West and homophobia are so strongly entwined?

But in times of unrest, what can change the future for LGBTQ+ individuals around the world? Acknowledging our important role as educators, it would be strange if we didn’t question this. LGBTQ+ History Month has encouraged us to focus on the lives and work of some courageous figures – a chance to celebrate their joys and identity. Fast forward two decades from the founding of this month-long celebration. Exploring the depths of our identity with our students, however that may translate – through art, literature, fashion, music and photography – presents an alternative lens to queerness that is synonymous with the dynamic spirit of our school community. It addresses our moral responsibility to recognise and represent diversity in a truly inclusive manner. And whilst we may have work to do in reviewing our curriculum and considering our recruitment efforts, our resolve to honour our commitment to this important work remains. We will face accountability with courage, honesty and kindness as we shed light on this vital issue with our students, striving towards the common goal to raise the profile, respect and support one another and discuss issues from our shared history that remain relevant to this day and beyond.

Nisha Kaura, Head of the Junior School